(Prints size 80x120 cm)
   There were abruptions in electricity, water supply and communications for 5 days. We didn't really understand what was going on around us. Conflicting information came from various sources. Everyone was busy rescuing food frozen in surrendered refrigerators. I was told about cars with Ukrainian flags in the city at the store where I went to buy food. Like many other Kherson residents, my psyche refused to believe in what was happening. There was a high probability of provocations by the Russian military, dressed in the uniform of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, our media warned about this. From the very beginning of the occupation, I firmly believed that Kherson would be liberated, but I did not expect that this could happen so suddenly and so “quietly”. That there will be no shelling and street fighting, which the Russian military used to intimidate. After conferring, my wife and I decided to go to the city center to check.
   Cautiously and hesitantly, people gathered on the central square, which bears the symbolic name "Freedom Square". By the time we arrived, the Ukrainian flag was already flying not only on the pedestal where monument to Lenin once stood, but also over the city administration building. The pro-Russian posters, which had insulted dignity for months, by this time had already been rudely torn down and burned. We saw it smoldering on the sidewalk, turning into symbolic ashes. Not only the city residents were cautious, but also Ukrainian troops, which drove into the city on civil cars for reconnaissance. They looked clearly tired and tense. It seems that they, too, could not believe that the Russian military was no longer here and peered intently into the crowd, expecting to see disguised soldiers there. I will always remember the symbolic scene in the square. One of the Armed Forces of Ukraine fighters climbed onto the roof of the SUV, on which he arrived in the city, in order to capture a video of the crowd of grateful Kherson residents from a height. They saw him against the backdrop of a cinema with a huge inscription "Ukraine" and shouted in unison "Kherson - is Ukraine!".
   I still did not fully believe that Kherson was under the control of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but this was not the last test for my nervous system. I was yet to discover that lots of inhabitants remained in a city that had previously seemed extinct. It seems that all of them at once rushed to the roads and squares with flags to meet the Ukrainian soldiers. Cars festively signaled to passers-by with Ukrainian flags, quite many children among them. Probably the largest crowd was at the intersection of Ivan Bohun and Cyril and Methodius streets. Three out of four lanes of the roadway was blocked by people. They stood in the middle of the road, waving flags, and when cars  with Ukrainian soldiers appeared, surrounded them from all sides to hug and to thank.
   We did not hide our feelings, there were flowers and tears in our eyes, someone even knelt in the middle of the road. All this was very reminiscent of the celebration of the victory of the national football team in the World Cup, but there were practically no indifferent to it. The lack of electricity, heat, water and communications could not overshadow the joy of citizens. For almost nine months of occupation we had different feelings and states. There were moments when doubts prevailed, there were also despair and apathy. But, as Rilke said: "Just keep going, no feeling is final."
   When I came home I recalled the events of my pre-war peaceful life, and suddenly for myself realized that for many years in everyday decisions I chose to escape, betray and build fences. First of all, from myself. After all, life at war, and even more so, in occupation, is the same peaceful life, but concentrated and accelerated: mistakes and false beliefs manifest themselves instantly and cost dearly. So what it really was: the desire to live or the fear of dying? I understood what the saying "burned bridges" means. That all the past years of my conscious life I prepared myself in order to pass this test worthily. The city is free, we defeated the enemy. But to get this done, we had to liberate our inner Kherson from the invaders who occupied it so long ago that no one even remembers. Which hid in it unnoticed by the citizens, infiltrating all authorities and influencing all the decisions they made. Because everyone who decided to stay here and fight for freedom to the end, first of all, fought with own fear, an invisible ally of all dictators and atom bomb scarecrows. This passed test is a healing of soul, a triumph of faith. Proof that there is a force much more powerful than brute physical. This is the victory of universal human values and its best qualities over the tyranny of fear, the victory of the spiritual over the material. To get it is the highest blessing for a mankind!
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